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COPS/Metro Alliance candidate forum draws good crowd, provided candidates little time to speak

Greg M. Schwartz

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Last night's forum for District 5 and District 1 city council candidates at the St. Philip of Jesus Catholic Church's parish hall was billed as an “accountability session,” with candidates being asked to say whether or not they would support 12 particular issues as voiced by members of COPS (Communities Organized for Public Service) and the Metro Alliance.

District 5 candidates on hand were incumbent Lourdes Galvan and challengers Eiginio Rodriguez, David Medina and John Carlos Garcia. District 1 candidates present were Mary Alice Cisneros and Rudy Krebs.

COPS/Metro Alliance members read all twelve questions first, with a big scorecard set up to record candidates answers of yes or no. The issues included securing funds to build a multi-purpose Community Center at St. Philip of Jesus; prioritizing neighborhood infrastructure projects including train “quiet zones”; requiring that CPS nuclear plant contractors agree to pay all cost overruns and that CPS present an alternative plan for solar and wind energy; funding $250,000 per year to reopen Lanier High School Health Clinic; doubling the dollar amount of the city's Education Partnership scholarships; keeping low fees for After School Challenge and Kid Quest; increasing funding for Project QUEST to $3 million next year; and meeting with COPS/Metro two weeks after the election and quarterly thereafter.

Anna Rosales of the Divine Redeemer Presbyterian Church gave the most passionate reading of any of the questions when she addressed the candidates on the CPS issues.

“We're here to remind CPS that `we` have institutional memory. We say members of city council should not agree to a contract `with the STP nuclear project` unless the contractor agrees to pay every penny over `the estimated cost of` $8 billion,” said Rosales.

A spirited crowed in the neighborhood 200 people attended and COPS/Metro Alliance can be commended for attempting to generate enthusiasm for the elections and awareness of the issues. But if the point of the exercise was for voters to attempt to differentiate the candidates by their answers, then the process seemed set up to fail.

Each of the six candidates on hand was given a mere 90 seconds to address all 12 of the issues. This predictably led to very similar answers, with all six candidates saying they would support all 12 issues and having little time to elaborate on their views.

Garcia seemed like the best-prepared candidate for the format as he was able to touch briefly on the first 10 issues. “We need to exhaust every single option before we go down that road,” said Garcia of CPS Energy's nuclear expansion plans.

Rodriguez was the only the candidate to make a specific mention of the potential hazards of the nuclear waste that would be created, while Medina voiced dissent against the nuke plans by saying that residents on fixed incomes cannot afford an increase in electricity rates. Galvan said she still remembered the previous CPS cost overruns and was committed to supporting that issue.

Krebs said she has a problem with $8 billion for nuclear plants, “especially if the nuclear jobs are not coming to my district.” Cisneros was the only candidate who first addressed the audience in Spanish, and then said she was especially committed to requiring nuclear plant contractors to pay the cost overruns.

If you're having a hard time distinguishing the candidates' positions on the CPS issues, there was even less differentiation on the other issues. COPS/Metro Alliance leaders said that they had met with each of the candidates previously and would be relating further information from those meetings to their various congregations and members. But if you're going to go to the trouble of gathering the candidates and members together for a community meeting, wouldn't it make more sense to give those candidates a little bit more time to talk? The Current would love to hear from anyone in attendance as to whether they felt they were able to better distinguish their preference amongst the candidates, and if so, based on what?

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